Page 265 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 9                        247


                I began to be a regular contributor to The Alternate, which was John
                Rowberry’s means of keeping his sanity in the midst of the daily
                deluges of S&M sex, which he [like Embry] didn’t even engage in
                himself. Rowberry was able to publish some quality material this
                way. It likewise allowed him to put up with Embry’s temper tantrums,
                forgetfulness, and financial mismanagement.
                    I would go to the office often, even did some proofreading to
                help my spindly budget. Embry had to approve every check, and so
                sometimes I’d find myself having to wait until a staff member could
                locate him and get his signature before I could get my money. I would
                nod hello if I had to, but I didn’t want to talk to him any more than I
                absolutely had to.
                    His publications were doing well in the late 1970s, and then
                Embry got too ambitious. He decided to open the Drummer Key Club,
                modeled after the Playboy clubs, only for South-of-Market types.
                Rowberry told me his boss also spent some of the profits on a new
                house for himself and his lover, cars, the usual. The Key Club was
                a flop, and money became tighter. The empire moved to humbler
                quarters.
                    The staff, with few exceptions, came and went like migratory
                workers. Once or twice even Rowberry resigned. “What’s wrong?” I
                asked. “That man’s a liar, a cheat. I can’t work for him any longer.”
                But Rowberry would return. He was the only one who could make
                the empire function.
                    I’ll have to give Embry credit for something. I did see him doing
                layout for Drummer at times, so he wasn’t above dirtying his hands.
                As a matter of fact, he wasn’t above dirtying his soul either.
                    Even when Alternate Publishing began to publish books, I did
                not suddenly cotton to John Embry. But I did submit one of mine
                to Rowberry, The Y. It was accepted and we signed a contract, but
                then the novel lay around the office for a year or more. When I asked
                Rowberry why it was taking so long to get the galleys, he said he had
                to wait to get each book published, in some kind of complicated
                trade with the printer that printed the magazines. Embry wanted
                the prestige/sales of real books, but he wanted to do the job on
                the cheap. So my book lay there, changing titles almost daily, as
                Rowberry and I discussed calling it something else. We finally settled
                on Deathsman.
                    About this time, poor David Lamble was hired by Embry to run
                his new newspaper. Lamble worked for a month gathering news sto-
                ries and features, some from me, only to have Embry bail out at
                the last minute. He decided to buy the failing California Voice from
                Paul D. Hardman (on the cover of which my lover and I had once
                appeared, in some other strange publication deal). California Voice


               ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-16-2017
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